Rev. Anthony is a Coptic Orthodox monk from St. Shenouda Monastery in Australia. He completed his Master of Arts in Ancient History at Macquarie University and is currently working to earn his Doctor of Philosophy on the subject of the Arrow Prayer. In the monastery, Father Anthony collaborates with many young people to produce Orthodox-inspired books and music.
When we speak of the apostles we generally speak of their achievements and successes, which may not include the full story. St. Mark, who was a young man, had his fare share of failures in the beginning of his ministry. In the Gospel of Mark, we are told how he escaped the scene of Jesus’s crucifixion naked (Mark 14:50-52). In the book of Acts, we are told that Mark refused to travel because he was homesick and preferred to return to him mum in Jerusalem. This we know angered St. Paul and made him refuse to take Mark with him to serve.
This last incident seems to have really affected St. Mark’s reputation, because we know later on that St. Paul explicitly recommends Mark for the service.
“Mark, the cousin of Barnabas, concerning whom you have received instructions—if he comes to you, receive him” (Col. 4:10).
It seems from what St. Paul said that his reputation in the church was going to the gutter very quickly. Here St. Paul has to send special instructions for the church to receive him.
I can see many of us in this situation sometime in our lives. When we have messed up in the past, we may have gained the reputation for being lousy servants. And we all know how painful it can be for someone to have a reputation based on a single past experience.
St. Mark didn’t let his missteps affect him. We know from the rest of his story that his motivation for service never died out despite his personal weaknesses and external pressure. What it took for him to get back into service was a mentor who believed in him and his motivation for service. He needed a mentor who saw past all of his weaknesses and the opinions of men and brought him back into the service. This mentor, by the way, was his cousin Barnabas.
A few years later we hear of St. Mark’s amazing achievements! In preaching the gospel to Alexandria, Egypt, he complied and account of the life of Jesus that became the venerated second gospel. And in doing so, he moved closer to his greatest achievement of all, to be finally martyred in the name of Christ.
So you may have stopped serving for any reason. Maybe something that happened in the past or something is still happening. Maybe you are in the midst of a clash with one of the well-respected servants (St. Paul in the case of St. Mark). But as we learned from St. Mark, that it is not the end of your story. There are many areas of service were you can thrive. One day this respected servant will say about you, “Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:11)
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